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Armagh restaurateur says not all in hospitality trade will be rushing to re-open their doors

'We were struggling to get by with the amount of customers that we did have. Now we have to do more cleaning, have more staff and keep our customers further apart'

kitchen restaurant

With the opening of all retail outlets last week many are now looking to pubs and restaurants welcoming their customers back after a July 3 date was set.

With the good weather, you could be forgiven for dreaming about a cold pint in a beer garden, but one Armagh restaurateur believes not all will be rushing to open their doors.

Speaking to Armagh I, he said: “Worldwide – Europe, America, the UK- the pub and restaurant trade are holding on or struggling to hold on because of taxation.

“I mean you only have to look at these multi-national chains or fancy TV chefs and see how many of their ventures have gone bust.”

According to the owner of the well established restaurant, small independent businesses have been chipping away but there have been no large amounts of money to be made in the last five to 10 years.

He explained: “It is an over-taxed business. I mean food there is 20% of it, so you are buying local produce, you are cooking it, you are serving it to local people and the government is taking 20% of that straight off the top.

“Then you have your minimum wages and rates to pay. I think pubs pay 25% more rates that any other retail business.”

If restaurants and pubs were to re-open, just as with retail premises, the number of customers inside at any one time would be limited.

The restaurateur confided: “They are saying when we open up you might not have the same amount of customers as you once had.

“Then you have to think, we were struggling to get by with the amount of customers that we did have. Now we have to do more cleaning, have more staff and keep our customers further apart.

“I turned my fridges off and my electric bill is £1,000 less; if I open my doors and I have to turn the fridges back on that’s back up £1,000 a month. That’s £250 a week you have to make, just to keep the food hygiene people happy.”

The burden of keeping parties apart would also fall upon the licensee.

Our local business owner added: “I mean we are used to separating those that are being unruly, but to stop people hugging, even perhaps if they are related?”

There is also the added cost of making sure the establishment is up to standard, which he does not think is “viable”.

“You are going to have to spend money to lose money. Personally, the government have been good to me, they put £25,000 in my bank account. I have been able to furlough staff, they froze rates.

“I am also cutting electric costs and not paying for sports on the TV at the moment. I am not stressing. I will probably just wait to see what other people are doing.”

He did, however, reveal that others may be more eager to reopen their doors.

“There will be people who are pushing to open, those that own more that one pub for example. I am lucky. I have one.

“The £25,000 I received would have been the same if I had one premises or 10. There are others under more financial burdens who may need to open.”

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